ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 3
Sasere 3; Mbong 23
Ħamrun Spartans: E. Bartolo-4, D. Gojkovic-6.5, M. Guillaumier-6, J. Mbong-7, J. Ailton Soares-6, F. Sasere-6.5 (87 I. Adeshina), E. Serrano Valero-6.5, J. Corbalan-6.5, P. Djordjevic-6.5, K. Micallef-6, E. Marcelina-6.5 (56 S. Doumbia-7).
Balzan: V. Vranes-5, A. Loof-5, M. Grima-5 (75 M. Kamara), P. Fenech-6, S. Bezzina-6 (70 A. Effiong-6.5), M. Johnson-6, U. Ljubomirac-6, S. Dimic-6, M. Sanoh-5, A. Andrejic-7.
Referee Emanuel Grech.
Yellow cards Sanoh, Djordjevic, Ljubomirac, Loof, Bezzina, Micallef, Dimic, Mbong.
BOV Player of the match: Joseph Mbong (Ħamrun Spartans).
Seydou Doumbia started to repay the faith Ħamrun Spartans put in him as the Ivory Coast striker came off the bench to fire home the winner against Balzan in a five-goal thriller at the Centenary Stadium.
It looked as though Ħamrun were set for a comfortable evening when racing into a two-goal lead after the first 45 minutes.
However, complacency creeped into the Spartans play and two defensive mistakes handed Balzan a route back into the match to level terms.
But the Spartans kept fighting and it was Doumbia who had the final say when firing home the winner that kept the Spartans two points clear of Hibernians at the top of the standings.
Ħamrun Spartans were off to a fast start and after four minutes of play they were already a goal ahead.
Karl Micallef found Franklin Sasere and the Nigerian directed a dipping header into the top corner of the net.
Ħamrun Spartans almost squandered that early advantage on 11 minutes when Bartolo charged out of his goal to intercept the ball but directed straight into the feet of Uros Ljubomirac who tried to lob the ball but his effort came off the bar much to the relief of the Spartans.
Gradually, the Spartans regained control of the match and they doubled their lead on 23 minutes. Joseph Mbong unleashed a powerful drive from 20 metres out that gave no chance to Balzan goalkeeper Vukasin Vranes.
On the half hour mark, Bartolo failed to deal with Ljubomirac’s inswinger, the ball fell to Stefan Dimic who, however, was denied by the Ħamrun no.1.
Two minutes from the break, Ħamrun came close to add a third goal when in a swift break, Mbong served Jorge Ailton Soares who was denied by Vranes.
Just before the half-time whistle, Matthew Guillaumier picked up a short rebound but his flick ended just wide.
Balzan reopened the match two minutes into the second half when Aleksa Andreijic’s cross-shot completely took Bartolo by surprise with the ball hitting the upright before finishing into the net.
Andreijic came close to an equaliser on 55 minutes but his swerving shot finished just over.
Shy of the hour mark, Seydou Doumbia, who had just replaced Marcelina, stole possession in midfield and set Ailton Soares on a run. The Spartans forwarreleased Djordjeivic who was denied by Vranes.
On 68 minutes, Ailton Soares was unlucky to see his inswinger touch the bar before finishing wide.
A minute later, Djordjevic nodded the ball towards Gojkovic who headed just wide.
However, it was Balzan who struck on 75 minutes when in a swift break, Alfred Effiong raced clear and with Bartolo charging out of his goal he easily slid the ball into the net.
But the Spartans refused to throw in the towel and six minutes from time Djordjevic curled the ball into the path of Doumbia who hammered the ball past Vranes.
Dodo should have added a fourth in stoppage time when he raced clear but with Vranes out of goal he was denied by Paul Fenech.